TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A highly contested education bill underwent hours of debate, with Democrats stating it would erase history, and Republicans insisting it fights nationwide division. It ultimately passed its final committee stop and will head to the Senate floor.
Filed by Sen. Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce), SB 266 would ban majors falling under diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at public colleges and universities. This would include gender studies and critical race theory.
“HIJACKED BY THE NATIONAL MEDIA”
The bill’s sponsor explained the heightened division prevalent in today’s society, highlighting that if the current system of “undermining our institutions is only done to divide us, then the current method isn’t working.” Grall said. “The point is we shouldn’t be dividing: we shouldn’t be picking and choosing, because we know better now.”
“We are speaking to what is actually in this piece of legislation,” Sen. Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee) said, nixing arguments that the bill leads to racism and history erasure. “Unfortunately, it’s been hijacked by the national media and folks that have an interest in other things outside of education.”
“RACIST AT ITS CORE”
The Democratic senators did not agree, pointing to history censorship and ignorance of others’ lived experiences.
“I’m going to give you some uncomfortable realities that we can’t and should not distort, hide, or just gloss over,” Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami) began. “Lynchings: uncomfortable; redlining: uncomfortable; spraying of black folks: uncomfortable. Be careful how you compare other peoples’ lived experiences, because it’s not yours.”
He continued: “The crux of this policy, and a lot of policies that we’re passing, is racist at its core. Whether you want to believe it or not, systemic racism exists.”
Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) agreed with his point, stating that “This bill is about what this country and this state wants to forget. We are choosing to ignore systemic racism. Let’s not choose to forget where we came from, so we can celebrate where we are.”
ANTI-DIVISIVE, NOT ANTI-HISTORY
In her closing remarks on the legislation, Sen. Grall refuted her Democratic colleagues’ points, stating that her bill is about preventing further division from theories rooted in an “oppressed and oppressor” system.
“It isn't erasing what we have experienced in the past: it’s not saying don’t think critically about what has put us here in this place, or what systemically is still involved and holding different groups of people back, and from accomplishing and becoming their best selves.”
In a vote down party lines, SB 266 passed the Committee on Fiscal Policy and now advances to the Senate floor.